About a month ago, Susan Pendergraph contacted me and asked if I could arrange something special for her mother who turns 100 on September 7th. Her mother served as a WAC during the WW II era. My response was certainly. Susan works at the animal shelter here in Caswell County where many residents know her well due to her care and love of the animals at the shelter.
But before I continue with the story lets go back to 1944 during WW II. Her mother is Shirley Steinkamp Durham. She was born September 7, 1922 in Weeping Water, Nebraska. She enlisted in the military July 28, 1944 and served until November 16, 1945 in the Women’s Air Corps, serving in finance and payroll at Camp Butner, NC and later in a dental clinic at Camp Croft, SC.
On that day in 1944 three of her siblings also joined the military: Can you imagine that one brother and two sisters would all join together on the same day to serve our country?
Shirley’s oldest sister Ruth Steinkamp (Tapper) served as Cadet Nurse at the Veterans Hospital in Lincoln, Nebraska.
Her other sister Wanda Steinkamp Gardner was also in the Women’s Air Corps (WAC) and served at the Pentagon in Washington, DC.
Shirley’s brother enlisted in the Navy and served in the Navy Amphibious Force during WW II.
Before Shirley enlisted she met her future husband at a USO Club in Lincoln, Nebraska. Dallas was serving already in the United States Army Air Corps. The Army Air Corps became the United States Air Force on September 18,1947. Dallas worked as a mechanic on airplanes. They were married July 29, 1945 in Chapel Hill, NC. Dallas passed away January 2,2009 at 87 years of age.
To recognize Mrs. Durham I contacted US Congressman Ted Budd’s office to see how his office could be a part of her celebration. I also contacted US Senator Richard Burr’s office for the same thing. I put together a certificate from Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7316 also. Jerry Hovatter, a VFW Post 7316 member, and also a retired Air Force Veteran, also contacted his Air and Space Forces Association to see what they could do for recognition.
On September 2, myself, Jerry Hovatter, Jerry Yeatts, and Keith Newcomer, all members of VFW Post 7316, visited Mrs. Durham at her residence in Mebane for her celebration where she lives with her daughter, Judi.
I first presented her with a certificate from VFW Post 7316, then read the letter from Congressman Budd to her. Senator Burr also sent her a personal letter for her celebration. Jerry Hovatter presented her a certificate from the Air and Space Forces Association and some coins from the Air Force.
We were met with a room full of family and friends to celebrate this wonderful birthday. Her daughters told us some of the stories and of a special trip Mrs. Durham made on September 14,2011: she took the Triangle Flight of Honor to Washington, DC at the age of 89.
Mrs. Durham told her family it was the best and most rewarding trip ever.
It was a great day for Mrs. Durham and her family and an honor for four Vietnam veterans to be a part of this celebration. There is not many WW 11 Veterans that are still around, if you know of some please reach out and give them all your thanks for this wonderful country we call the United States.